Allergic to Henna Hair Dye? Henna Itchy, Sore & Burning Scalp? Here's what you can do!

You think you're allergic to henna hair dye because, after the application, you felt your scalp was itchy and burning?

In this blog post, we will find out if you have an allergic reaction to henna and what to do to avoid the annoying itchy and burning scalp.

Henna Allergy: how to understand if we're having an allergic reaction to henna

You must remember that, potentially, we can be allergic to everything, and that the fact that a product is natural, it doesn't mean it's harmless and it does not guarantee to be anallergic. Henna, specifically, contains various allergens, but there are only a few documented cases of henna allergy.

Allergic to Henna Hair Dye? Henna Itchy, Sore & Burning Scalp? Here's what you can do!

An allergy to a substance manifests itself after one is being exposed for a period of time to the allergen, and it does not depend on the quantity of product one's been exposed to. It can arise on every area of the body, not only on the head or the scalp. Generally, we have an allergic reaction right after the first exposure, but it can arise even after various applications or after years of one product's use.

In my blog posts and video tutorials I always suggest you to make a henna allergy skin test, 48 hours before the application of henna or herbal hair colors, in order to see if you're allergic to herbal hair dyes or not.

How to do an allergy skin test to see if you're allergic to henna?

1. Mix the henna (lawsonia) or the herbal hair color (katam, indigo or cassia) with water, or prepare the herbal hair colors mix (obviously a small quantity of it, but still using the right percentages) you want to apply on your hair.

2. Apply a small amount of the henna mix on your forearm and cover it with a band-aid.

3. Wait for 2 or 3 hours and if you don't feel any weird sensations, like itch or redness, you can use that specific herbal hair color or that specific mix of henna and herbal hair dyes because you're not allergic to it.

Just keep in mind that it's possible being allergic to only one specific allergen contained in a specific herbal hair color, even if you use all the other herbal hair colors with no problems.

If, instead, while keeping the henna on, you feel your scalp itchy and/or burning, or, after washing the mix away you notice that your skin is red and you feel it's itchy... if you notice you have a runny nose and you feel your eyes are burning, well, it's very likely that you're allergic to that specific herbal hair color, or to one of the herbal hair colors you used for the test. In this case, I strongly discourage you to apply herbal hair colors on your head and scalp.

The itchy sensation will disappear in a couple of hours after you'll wash the herbal hair colors away from your scalp.

The fact that the skin remains tinted (red or orange) is not an allergic symptom, but it's a normal reaction if the herbal hair colors are Body Art Quality (it means that they're appropriate for tattoos & one of the highest quality available on the market), like Beautilicious Delights' herbal hair colors.

Moreover, the Body Art Quality Henna is synonymous with purity, hence it guarantees that there are neither PPD nor chemical ingredients in it.

What causes itchy and sore scalp if it is not an allergy issue?

If, during the henna allergy skin test, everything went fine and you didn't have any allergic reaction to henna, why, after the application, do you still feel an itchy and a burning scalp?

The video tutorials are in Italian, but English subtitles are available!

Possible causes that may provoke an itchy burning scalp, and NOT a proper allergic reaction to henna:

1. The henna you're using is impure:

  • It might have been cut with other herbs to which your skin is intolerant, or it may contain sand that has a too aggressive scrub-effect on the scalp.
  • It contains sodium picramate to which many people are allergic. I talked about the role of the sodium picramate if added to henna in the following article:

    The Ultimate Guide to Henna & Herbal Hair Dyes Preparation and Application.

2. You add to your henna and herbal hair color mix, ingredients other than warm water:

  • vinegar - it can easily irritate the scalp, especially if it's left for a long period on the scalp.
  • yoghurt - it can lead to dandruff and interfere in the color release.
  • essential oils - heavily not recommended in the henna mix because, if you use a wrong dosage of them, they can burn the scalp.

If you have been following my blog assiduously, I'm sure you know that I strongly discourage you to add other ingredients in the henna mix. I talk about this topic in The Ultimate Guide to Henna & Herbal Hair Dyes Preparation and Application.

3. You let the herbal hair colors mix sit on your scalp for too long: from 6 to 9 - 12 hours.

The irritation and sensitization of the scalp happen when the scalp can't take it any longer.

A too long exposure of the skin to the herbal hair dyeing mix causes a dehydration of the scalp. The more you wait, the more the herbal hair colors tend to re-hydrate themselves by absorbing water from the skin and the hair. I recommend you to read the article I wrote about For How Long and How Often you should Apply Henna and Herbal Hair Colors Mix?

4. The itchy burning scalp is most of the times caused from the henna residues on the scalp.

What should you do to avoid a burning scalp and its sensitization?

  • Be sure to buy first quality and pure henna and herbal hair colors: in the cosmetic ingredients list there must be written only the name of the plant. Please, avoid buying loose herbal hair dyes: you can't be sure neither of their origin nor of their purity.
  • Leave the henna mix sit on your scalp for the minimum time possible. I personally manage to obtain a perfect coverage of my gray hair (more than the 75% of my regrowth is gray) by letting the henna mix sit for only three and a half hours. If you don't need to cover gray hair, you can let the mix on your head just for 2 hours and still obtain great results.
  • Avoid adding any other ingredient to your henna mix, whether they're acid ingredients or not. Do NOT use essential oils, because there's a high risk of burning your scalp, especially if you let the mix sit for a long time.
  • Be sure to rinse and wash away every henna residue or every bit of herbal hair dye. In order to make this operation easier, just fill a bowl or the sink with water and immerse your hair in it.
  • Use only a natural shampoo, silicone-free - find out why you have to detox your hair from silicones and how the silicones affect the release of the color - and dilute it just to be sure that the surfactants did their job removing each and every henna residue left on the scalp.
  • Lastly, rinse your hair with cold water to relieve the burning scalp. To alleviate the itchy sensation, apply on your skin an aloe vera gel.

RECOMMENDED READING: Shiny & Soft Hair with an Acid Rinse: Apple Vinegar or Lemon?

henna herbal hair colors

Even though the Beautilicious Delights Herbal Hair Dyes are completely free from synthetic chemical substances and even though they're 100% natural (they contain only the dried and powdered plant), they can still lead to sensitization of the scalp or to allergic reactions as every one of us is unique.

In order to avoid this kind of reaction, I suggest you to do the allergy skin test I talked about at the beginning of the article, prior to applying the henna mix to your scalp.

Just remember that the allergic reaction that can be caused by a pure herbal hair dye has nothing to do with the allergic reaction caused by PPD: this allergic reaction causes a much more violent irritation and evident swelling and redness.

Have you ever had allergic reactions to henna or itchy scalp or burning scalp after using henna? What did you do to alleviate the annoying sore scalp?

©Beautilicious Delights

Take care of your skin and hair consciously. You'll find everything you need (even herbal hair colors) on our online shop. Click HERE to visit it!


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